"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Meta: New interim column name is interim. Rhymes with "talkin' points" if you have a heavy Midwest accent. Hakn means to nag in Yiddish, literally to bang on […a pot or teakettle]. The reference.
Every touch is a little bit of magic. [Fuller]
Early last month Brian forwarded me a reader question about the relative experience of Michigan's players, and asked for a lot of research:
What has been the average age and game experience of each of the teams’ skill groups over the course of the season for each of Hoke’s years coaching here?
I’d love to see a table or graph that showed age/game experience by skill group by year of tenure for all the skill groups. Just data.
Everyone says – players aren’t developing. I’m not sure whether it’s true or a function of getting better but younger less experienced guys on the field.
My impression Defense is improving – and that’s where Hoke started recruiting (if memory serves) – those are some of his third year guys now (still juniors and RS Sophs) – getting better all the time. Offense – a year behind defense from age/experience. Mostly Sophs and RS Fresh. If that pattern is right and holds, a defense of 4th and 3rd year guys next year and an offense of 3rd and second year guys should continue to improve the product. No?
Off the cuff, we were plotting out age progression of Hoke's recruiting classes back in 2012 (when most of the 2013 class was signed) and concluding that 2015 was the probable germination point. I think a big part of why Hoke was let go was Michigan doesn't at all seem on track for that to happen. As Hackett mentioned in his press conference, the 2015 team should be one of the most experienced we've fielded in memory across the board (provided there's no mass exodus, which is hardly a guarantee).
Yay for Good News! How Good's Our GNews?
To get a real answer I really think we'd need other teams to compare it with, and that's way too much work. Also not all positions are created equal and relative experience does not say how quality the experienced players are: the 2003 and 2005 teams were nearly identical, but the 2003 was one of the best under Lloyd while the latter we thought of at the time as painful. Deciding which positions mature at what rate and have which effect of outcome is beyond the scope of this study. But I found two ways to approximate an answer:
1) Long ago I started keeping a spreadsheet of players, going back to the mid-'90s, with what years they were on the roster, when they left, and why. With some updating that was able to produce a list of how many scholarship players Michigan had available each year back to '97, broken up by year-in-program and eligibility and whatnot. By that count Michigan has the oldest team in 2015 in the post-championship era, with 85 accumulated years (average at UM for 1997-2014 is 68) since high school on offense and 83 (average is 61) on defense.
2) I scoured the Bentley team history pages (the links at the right on that page), for how many starts each player had. This turned out to be quite the rabbit hole, hence why it took me so long to produce a response. After fixing a bazillion duplicates and spelling errors and whatnots (like for example they have the Gordons mixed up), I had a list of starts by season of every Michigan player going back to 1994, which I've put on Google Docs for your perusal.
There's some other good tabs at that link if you like exploration.
[Money chart and more after the jump]
Let's take some small sample sizes and extrapolate wildly. It will be fun. Here's Bill Connolly breaking down expected improvement from teams that return varying numbers of defensive starters:
So Cincinnati returns 11 defensive starters. That's probably a good thing, right? But how good? And how much can a bad defense improve in one offseason just because of experience? Let's take a look, shall we?
Average Change In Def. F/+, Last Three Years Starters
N Avg Chg in
1 1 -12.4% 2 4 -10.9% 3 10 -8.4% 4 32 -2.1% 5 53 -1.1% 6 69 -0.5% 7 85 1.1% 8 56 1.5% 9 37 4.2% 10 9 6.0% 11 3 5.4%
So basically, if you return between five and eight starters, you are likely not going to change much, but three or fewer is a problem, and nine or more is a good thing.
F/+ is Connolly's advanced metric; it's play-based instead of drive-based like FEI. Don't be fooled by the % symbol—the metric is percentage based and from context it's clear the difference is meant to be added to the score, not multiplied. Since the best defenses are around +17% and the worst around –13%, 6% is about a fifth of the entire scale.
Michigan is, unsurprisingly, right at the bottom of that scale at 115th. They were 12% worse than an average defense down-to-down. The good news is they return 9-ish starters, losing Greg Banks, James Rogers and Jonas Mouton while reacquiring Troy Woolfolk. (They also lose Ray Vinopal and Obi Ezeh, but Ezeh had been replaced and Michigan should get JT Floyd back so let's call it a wash.)
The numbers are thin at both ends of the spectrum but, hey, extrapolating wildly from small sample sizes. Doing so says Michigan's defense will storm forward from 115th nationally to…
I have no source for this, unfortunately.
But wait! Our sample sizes are not small enough and our extrapolation is not making out with other nubile young extrapolations in front of a television camera. Bill added a second factor, the previous year's defense, and finds that a defense with an F/+ under –10% that returns nine starters should expect (for a given confidence level that is not high at all) to improve by 8.6%, which would see them get to…
You might be able to argue that Mike Martin wasn't right and the team was even younger than the average team that returns nine starters and GERG is rubbing stuffed animals on the faces of other stuffed animals at a tearful tea party and for the first time in a long time they'll just run one damn defense per year and that they should expect to improve even more. You're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Like installing the spread 'n' shred, digging out of a hole this big is a multi-year project.
Every recruit ever committed to Michigan. To recap the "Hello" posts if you missed any of them during GMD11:
- Three star OH CB Tamani Carter, a recent Minnesota commit, was offered by Michigan and flipped.
- 3/4 star CB Raymon Taylor, an Indiana decommit, went with Michigan when they offered him the second time around.
- Michigan replaced decommit K Matt Goudis with CA K Matt Wile, an Army All-America participant who doesn't have the rankings but we're talking about kicker rankings here.
- 3/4 star LB Antonio Poole was offered and quickly committed after meeting with Mattison. Touch The Banner also has a take.
- Michigan snake oiled Purdue commit and three star TX QB Russell Bellomy. TTB sees shades of McNown.
In addition, OH TE/LB Frank Clark and CO LB Leilon Willingham have moved into the "expected to commit" category. Clark's from Glenville, of all places.
The names and stars aren't that impressive—the partially shirtless are shirtless in the same way Martavious Odoms was, a four star to one site and a generic three star to the others—but if we're talking about Michigan 2013 is the new Martavious Odoms better than air? Yes. And who doesn't like Odoms, anyway?
Even if this is just a version of Rodriguez's quick strikes upon taking the Michigan job, Hoke and Mattison (and I guess some other guys*) are doing this in about a fourth of the time Rodriguez had to assemble the last eight members of his hybrid class. And they screwed over Purdue in the process, thereby twisting the knife on Danny Hope and blowing up one of the very first Rodriguez The Demon memes: the "gentleman's agreement." Excellent work all around. Hope you play as a redshirt senior, kid.
Now we've got some insight into what the coaches think is lacking on the team: defense. Here is a small child reacting to this not at all obvious revelation.
there's gambling in this establishment?
More than the linebacker avalanche it's Michigan essentially turning down one-time silent WR commits Devin Lucien, one of those borderline four star types, and Hakeem Flowers, a three star with epic offers. Both tried to firm up those commits with the new staff and were politely told "defense or GTFO." They chose the latter. Michigan has a surplus on the outside now but surely one of those guys wouldn't have been overkill, right?
Similarly, this Heitzman kid they picked up from Vandy is a 6'3", 225 pounder who doesn't seem like he's got a high upside as a DE. So everyone assumed he was a tight end, since Michigan was trying hard to acquire one even before the shift to a more MANBALL philosophy. He denies this, saying Michigan isn't even talking about offense. Which is weird because between Roh, Paskorz, and Beyer Michigan seems to have undersized weakside DE covered for a good long while.
*[Seriously, all the commits save the Purdue snake oilin' are on defense, and the only defensive coach other than Mattison is Mark Smith. Smith is a 50-something dude who's afraid of flash photography. While a lot of the guys are linebackers I think "I coached Ray Lewis" is more the pitch than "I was the ILB coach at Indiana State for 22 years."]
Good for Michigan State hockey, good for interesting games against State in the future, still extremely uncertain if they'll get back to where they were under Mason. They've never recruited at the level Michigan has but made up for it with suffocating anti-hockey. Now they're not very good, playing in a dead, half-full building, and trying to compete against the OHL, Michigan, Miami, and Notre Dame. If they hire a real star they'll get back quickly but is Blasi going to leave Miami for MSU? Is George Gwozdecky? I have a hard time seeing MSU splashing the cash for their hockey coach—we'll see.
If it's Danton Cole that's the equivalent of hiring Brady Hoke. He'll be decent but that hire won't put the fear of God in Red or Jeff Jackson. The only name in the TOC thread on this is current assistant Tom Newton, which would be like hiring Mike Debord if Carr had stuck around for the 3-9 year. I'm sure you can dismiss that possibility.
While we're on hockey here's that delightful interlude from the aftermath of the Brown scrum:
Via Michigan Hockey Net.
People started muttering about what it would take for John Beilein to get the axe. It's in the paper and everything. BWS is digging out the wet owl and following that up with the obvious argument about his record.
This is what it will take for John Beilein to get fired this year: Armageddon. There are enough arrows pointed in the right direction, mostly in the persons of Burke, Brundidge, Robinson, Hardaway, et al, that Michigan will give Beilein the epic length of rope they gave Tommy Amaker. He won't get nailed next year and the team will be considerably better in 11-12, and probably better yet in 12-13, whereupon they'll either be a consistent tourney team or even the smitten Michigan athletic department will have to cut the cord.
Of course, I said this about Rich Rodriguez, too, but John Beilein is the kind of saint Michigan likes to be associated with.
Doctor Saturday embarked on his annual defense of the "recruiting-industrial complex." Every year the numbers are the same: on an individual and team basis recruiting numbers are not fate but not useless. Get The Picture set to highlightin' the bit I was going to highlight because Michigan is Georgia:
Those 13 schools [at the top of the recruiting rankings] alone have consistently produced a majority of the top five in the final polls, half of the top 10, at least half of the teams in the BCS and all of the national champions in the BCS era. (With Auburn’s triumph – thanks mainly to über recruit Cam Newton, the five-star headliner of a top five class last year – only two of the top dozen recruiting powers have failed to win a BCS championship: Georgia and Michigan. [Emphasis added.]
We've had a lot of reasons our recruiting success hasn't translated to the field—at least, not the field in Ann Arbor. Georgia not so much, as they seem around where Carr was in '05—good young second year quarterback on a team that's around .500 with a declining coach that has maybe a kick or two left at the can.
People who don't lift weights found out what "rhabdomyolysis" is thanks to Iowa. I'm on with Orson when he dismisses the "save the children" aspect of the media reaction—the big issue is more effective sickle cell trait screening, not squatting until you pee brown. While Iowa's strength coach should probably be fired it's more stupid than immoral.
But man can Iowa rack up the terrible PR. Kirk Ferentz wasn't even at the press conference, and the university thought it could get away with a bland press release about thirteen kids being in the hospital. Add that to Iowa's seemingly biannual drug explosion, that weird press conference held late last year in which unnamed rumors were debunked without mentioning what they were, the laundry list of Hawkeye arrests, and that sketchy sexual assault cover-up-type-substance and it's a wonder that beautiful square-jawed Kirk Ferentz is still regarded a molder of men. Or maybe it's not.
Was that a question?
All right then.
The meme was blessed by Steele. Remember those depressing charts from the past couple years with returning starters and whatnot? Yeah…
|3||San Jose St||7||11||2||20|
…different story this year. That doesn't even count Troy Woolfolk, though it does count Terrible McFieldgoalkicker. Call it a wash.
Oh, Snape. Michigan soccer associate head coach Paul Snape got the head job at Butler. I'm only mentioning it so I can post… awww. Stupid Google. I can't find the version of this…
That I once saw somewhere that said "Oh, Snape." Also it turns out to be a Harry Potter reference. Stupid Harry Potter and the horrifying things you'll see photoshopped if you attempt to find the slightly modified version of this stupid animated GIF.
Etc.: Thumbs up to the Mountain West for its supreme dickery in moving this year's TCU-Boise game to the blue turf. Mark Smith looks like that all the time, but it's less alarming when he's talking. Hecklinksi, meanwhile, sounds like he's saying "you are feeling very sleepy" no matter what he's saying. It's very soothing.